Congress kept the heat on Attorney General Eric Holder for several months, asking Holder to make available several thousand pages of documents pertaining to the Department of Justice's Fast and Furious program which alleges several US firearms have made their way to Mexican drug cartels.
Holder has made several appearances in front of the House Oversight Committee over the past year to explain the program and most notably answer questions about any cover up and wrongdoing within the program.
Said Holder of the allegations, "From the beginning, Chairman Issa and certain members of the Committee have made unsubstantiated allegations first, then scrambled for facts to try to justify them later. That might make for good political theater, but it does little to uncover the truth or address the problems associated with this operation and prior ones dating back to the previous Administration."
Today, President Obama executed his executive privilege to withhold documents a House committee had been seeking, giving more evidence to the oversight committee that there must be a cover up.
House Speaker John Boehner remarked earlier today on the president's decision.
"Until now, everyone believed that the decisions regarding 'Fast and Furious' were confined to the Department of Justice. The White House decision to invoke executive privilege implies that White House officials were either involved in the 'Fast and Furious' operation or the cover-up that followed," said Boehner's press secretary Brendan Buck. "The administration has always insisted that wasn't the case. Were they lying, or are they now bending the law to hide the truth?"
More comments from Attorney General Holder
Tactics began with the previous administration.
“In recent months, the Justice Department has made unprecedented accommodations to respond to information requests by Chairman Issa about misguided law enforcement tactics that began in the previous administration and allowed illegal guns to be taken into Mexico. Department professionals have spent countless hours compiling and providing thousands of documents -- nearly 8,000 -- to Chairman Issa and his committee. My staff has had numerous meetings with congressional staff to try and accommodate these requests and yesterday, I met with Chairman Issa to offer additional internal Department documents and information that would satisfy what he identified as the Committee’s single outstanding question.
An unnecessary action
“Unfortunately, Chairman Issa has rejected all of these efforts to reach a reasonable accommodation. Instead, he has chosen to use his authority to take an extraordinary, unprecedented and entirely unnecessary action, intended to provoke an avoidable conflict between Congress and the Executive Branch. This divisive action does not help us fix the problems that led to this operation or previous ones and it does nothing to make any of our law enforcement agents safer. It's an election-year tactic intended to distract attention -- and, as a result -- has deflected critical resources from fulfilling what remains my top priority at the Department of Justice: Protecting the American people.
Who is right? Who is wrong?
“Simply put, any claims that the Justice Department has been unresponsive to requests for information are untrue. From the beginning, Chairman Issa and certain members of the Committee have made unsubstantiated allegations first, then scrambled for facts to try to justify them later. That might make for good political theater, but it does little to uncover the truth or address the problems associated with this operation and prior ones dating back to the previous Administration.
What Holder did
“I have spent most of my career in law enforcement and worked closely with brave agents who put their lives on the line every day. I know the sacrifices they make, so as soon as allegations of gunwalking came to my attention – and well before Chairman Issa expressed any interest in this issue -- I ordered the practice stopped. I made necessary personnel changes in the Department's leadership and instituted policy changes to ensure better oversight of significant investigations. And, I directed the Department's Inspector General to open a comprehensive investigation. That investigation is ongoing, and the American people and Congress can count on it to produce a tough, independent review of the facts.
Question of the day. Eric Holder is the first US Attorney General to be held in contempt by a House oversight committee since when?